I've found that there is a relatively known English proverb that goes like this:

It is easy to be wise after the event.

I'm interested, is there an equivalent in Russian for the whole proverb or the phrase "being wise after the event"? If not, what is the proper literary translation would be?

  • "Задним умом..." is the common to say indeed. A more-recent form is also "лестничное остроумие" (staircase wit), i.е. when you're already leaving the place and suddenly you understand what you should have answered.
    – bereal
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 7:49

8 Answers 8


It is common to say Все мы задним умом крепки in the case.


There is a Russian proverb:

Знал бы прикуп - жил бы в Сочи

which means "[I] would have done things differently had [I] known of something particular in the past". It originated from the преферанс card game, but has grown beyond just the jargon of the players.

It's not exactly the same as it is easy to be wise after the event, but it does carry similar meaning.

Edit: last night another thought came to me, when I was thinking about something I did the previous day:

Умная мысля приходит опосля


Знал(а) бы, где упаду - подстелил(а) бы соломку (or соломки).

(Literally: If I knew where I would fall, I'd spread some straw there)

The form without (a) is male, the form with (a) is female.


permeakra's answer is the most precise translation.

There is though one more possible alternative for some special situations. The alternative is

После драки кулаками не машут

which literally translates as "you don't swing your fists after the fight". It is applicable in situations when somebody boasts his (usually inexistent) power or threatens to the enemy after the end of the confrontation when these threats do not endanger them anymore.


Немного безграмотный, зато рифмованный вариант:

Хорошая мысля приходит опосля.

  • +1 - он хоть и не "регламентный", но действительно существующий.
    – shabunc
    Commented Nov 8, 2012 at 22:49

To scratch the back of one's head is really iterpreted in traditional Russian discourse as a sign of misunderstanding / not understanding something, or that of a long and fruitless thinking over smth. There are also idiomatic expressions чесать в затылке/затылок and therefore the expression of "задний ум"


This expression has slightly negative overtones, although there is another dictionary giving it as an only correlate in Russian together with some more examples (in old orthography)


лестничное остроумие is calqued French l'esprit d'escalier with the same meaning of 'starecase wit'

So the strategies are either to use English calque быть умным после события, or to use a neutral saying осознать/обдумать событие пост-фактум

or to use minimal syntax with prefixes:

додумать (to rethink, to have afterthouhts)

переосмыслить (to rethink)


Наиболее употребительны в разговорной речи

  1. "Знал(а) бы прикуп(карточный термин) -жил(а) бы в Сочи." или более сокращённая версия "Знал(а) бы прикуп", "Эх знал(а) бы прикуп"
  2. Знал(а) бы где упасть- соломку(подушку) бы подстелил . Можно сокращать "Знал бы -подстелил соломку"
  3. После драки кулаками не машут
  4. Умная мысля приходит опосля
  5. Варианты про задний ум имеют в современно языке двоякое толкование и могут быть поняты в как намёк на гомосексуализм. Плохо говорящим по русски я бы не советовал использовать в повседневной речи -"можно и по рылу отгрести"-просто побьют
  • 1
    You didn't add any new information, however compiling together individual pieces of information split across multiple posts is also useful.
    – Aleks G
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 15:14

Еще с выражением крепок задним умом связана (чисто русская?) привычка чесать затылок, когда что-то не получилось. Озадаченное почесывание затылка (как задней части головы) и ассоциируется с задним умом. Even with the strong expression of hindsight is linked to (a purely Russian?) Habit of scratching your head when things do not work out. Puzzled scratching neck (as the back of the head) and is associated with hindsight. I do not know much Russian and English.

  • 2
    Why do you think the habit of scratching the back of your head is linked to this phrase? Please state your source.
    – Aleks G
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 15:13

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